Prosecutors say suspects in drug case had arsenal

In court, official lists firearms, narcotics and cash police say they found

March 15, 2000|By TaNoah Morgan | TaNoah Morgan,SUN STAFF

Two brothers charged as part of a regional drug ring from which federal authorities seized $8 million worth of cocaine had a "virtual arsenal" of weapons available to them, a federal prosecutor told a U.S. District Court judge yesterday.

In a detention hearing before Magistrate Judge Charles B. Day, U.S. Attorney Ranganath Manthripragada talked about the combination of drugs, weapons and cash that police said they found in the homes of James and Jamerson Tillman.

The brothers and a third man, Lyle Kent Wade, 47, of the 4700 block of 67th Ave. in Landover Hills were charged with conspiracy to distribute cocaine and possession with intent to distribute cocaine. All three were ordered held without bond after yesterday's hearings.

"This is is a cocaine conspiracy going on," Manthripragada said. "They used weapons and they had weapons. The combination suggests these individuals were involved in large transactions. What was recovered was a virtual arsenal of weapons."

Manthripragada detailed the cache uncovered over the weekend as local and federal authorities searched the home of 23-year-old Jamerson, of the 9300 block of Edmonston Road in Greenbelt, and 25-year-old James, of the 1800 block of Eagle Court in Severn.

Official lists items

In the Greenbelt apartment, police said, they found three handguns, one of them loaded and slipped under a mattress with the handle pointing outward.

In the closet was an SKS assault rifle with two banana clips taped together, each loaded with 30 rounds of ammunition, the prosecutor said. A sawed-off shotgun, 21 kilograms of cocaine, a half-kilogram of crack and $506,000 in cash were also found there, he said.

Manthripragada said in court that records indicated the younger Tillman had a contract on a $250,000 home being built in Acokeek, with $150,000 of the home being financed, although a pretrial report showed he was a student at Prince George's Community College and getting help paying his $845 monthly rent.

A storage locker registered to the men's mother had even more weapons, Manthripragada said -- machine guns with hundreds of rounds of ammunition, an AK-47 assault rifle, another SKS assault rifle, a Mac-11 9 mm assault pistol, and eight banana clips. Manthripragada did not say in his arguments where the locker was, and he would not comment on the case outside the courtroom.

In James Tillman's townhouse in Still Meadows and in his two cars -- a Cadillac STS and a Toyota Supra seized by police -- authorities found a .40-caliber and a 9 mm handgun, both loaded, 10 kilograms of cocaine, scales and a kilogram of crack cocaine, the prosecutor said.

Defense balks at charges

Lawyers for the brothers argued that there was no significant risk of flight because the men had homes and family in the area.

Mark J. Rochon, defense attorney for Jamerson Tillman said his client had no criminal history, and that, because he is not a felon, it was not illegal for him to possess weapons. He argued that his client should be under house arrest.

"I don't think the government has made the case that Jamerson is a danger to the community," Rochon said.

The brothers are scheduled for a preliminary hearing March 23, unless they are indicted by a grand jury.

Wade, the third man charged in the ring, had a separate detention hearing before Magistrate Judge Jillyn Schulze yesterday afternoon.

There was no preliminary hearing scheduled for Wade, his attorney said.

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